Day Six: What Is The Hardest Thing You Ever Experienced?
Apologies for not keeping on track and posting this yesterday like I was supposed to… as if any one is actually sitting around waiting for my random posts, anyway. I had spent the day and night at my sister’s house watching my one niece. It was such a wonderful time. We spent the entire day going to the playground and swinging from monkey bars, climbing trees, and seeing how high we could get on the swing set. The only drawback? I’m insanely sore today, which only verifies the fact that I am, undoubtedly, getting old. Anyway, on to today’s topic…
I had to sit and think pretty hard for a minute what I wanted to make this post about. While I have not experienced moments that have been completely life-shattering, I have definitely endured more than a couple of times where I felt like I just couldn’t pick up my feet and go on anymore. Quite honestly, I won’t even be able to pin point one EXACT moment in my life that was the “hardest” because the time I am thinking of has numerous different things that kind of all compiled during a certain point that just made life seem impossible to get through.
It was a little over two years ago and I was soon turning 21. I had broken up with my boyfriend a few months prior, so I had been having some pretty crazy times just simply enjoying being young. I had never felt more free in my life. I felt like I could do what I wanted, when I wanted, and overall… I felt completely invincible. It was the first time in my life I literally felt free, like I didn’t have a worry weighing down on me. I’m not exactly sure what it was that sparked the depression to lurk back in like an old friend trying to be unnoticed. I can just remember the night I laid in my bed, bawling my eyes out, and my good friend sat next to me, half scared and half helpless as to what was going on. All he could say was, “Moodie… I don’t get it… what’ wrong?” I didn’t know. I couldn’t put it into words, but all I felt inside was dark, and deep emptiness. It completely engulfed my entire body, and my mind. It was as if someone came in and suddenly cut off the electricity in my house and I was forced to live in a place that was once so full of light, but suddenly became black.
Maybe I could just sense things were going to get worse from there on out. Maybe subconsciously I had a feeling of impending doom. Maybe I was just crazy. For weeks, I couldn’t seem to get myself under control. It was as though one minute I could be laughing and loving life more than any other person, and then suddenly, usually when I was alone in my quiet room, BOOM… I wouldn’t feel a thing except cold and empty. I barely ate, let alone felt the urge to nourish my body. Honestly, I didn’t even think about food. I didn’t ever feel hungry, and all I felt was tired and sadness. There would be times where I would become overwhelmed with grief about seemingly nothing, that I couldn’t fight the urge to fall to the floor and completely break down. I just wanted to get it all out: the emotion, the pain… everything.
For a couple of months, I went through this vicious up and down cycle. I was used to experiencing depression for what felt like my whole life, but every other time throughout my life, it never would come and go so abruptly and for no reason at all. Previously, I would feel sadness about a particular occurrence, that would last for at most a month, and then for a while (sometimes months, sometimes years) I would feel happy again. But this time was so different. One week, I’d be smiling and skipping, loving life and finding enjoyment in my loved ones and friends, and then the next week, I’d lock myself in my room, only to come out if absolutely necessary or if I had to work. At times, I’d lash out at my loved ones for prying too much, and then the next second I’d be crying because I felt ashamed for what I did and then I wanted their love and concern. Sometimes, these up and down emotions would occur as quickly as a day. It was completely draining me and I felt such intense confusion as to why I couldn’t get myself together.
After those couple of months of struggling through these emotions, I got a phone call from my father to tell me something he had learned about my Grammy Fay. He told me that things weren’t looking good, and that I needed to start spending more time with her because she probably didn’t have much longer. For the past few years, I had been hearing similar stories, but my Grammy always seemed to pull through and she was back to her normal self. I absolutely adored my grandmother. I didn’t have to see her constantly to know how much she loved me. Every time there was a reason for the family to get together, I would just gravitate toward her and spend the entire time sitting next to her and cracking jokes. She had such a quick wit and the things that would come out of her mouth would completely catch anyone off guard. Along with that, she had absolutely zero filter, and her laugh was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. Not beautiful in the sense that it sounded lovely, actually it was completely opposite considering it was more of a deep, crackling laugh. But I loved the way it sounded. When it would hit my ears, I would instantly smile and I, too, would begin laughing alone even if I didn’t get the punch line.
Every single time she saw me, her eyes would glow and she would all but threaten everyone to make sure that she was the first person I gave a hug and kiss to. It was always the same routine: I would walk in the door, she would be sitting in the same chair at the end of the dining room table. As soon as she saw who it was, she would say out loud, “Alicia Fay! Come see your Grammy” and a smile would be slapped on my face within seconds. I would bend down and we would embrace for anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute, time that never sounds so long but in the moment it felt like forever… but I enjoyed that. She would squeeze me tight and make that “Mmmm” sound people make when they hug someone tight. She would kiss my cheek at least three times and say, “Ahhh, I just love you so much. You’re grammy’s baby. You’re just so beautiful, Alicia Fay.” Many times, the sheer love of the moment would bring tears to my eyes. She was my only living grandparent my entire life, and I am so grateful for the time I had with her. Thick tears form in my eyes and stream down my cheeks as I write this. The mere memory of her can make my throat begin to choke up and my heart warms up. She was so wonderful, so loving, so perfect.
She was still pretty young around the time my father had called and told me the news on the phone that day. She was only 69; she had so much more life to live, but years of smoking cigarettes and poorly taking care of her health vastly shortened her life span. I honestly thought my gram would pull through again. That woman was strong, she was resilient. Still, the words of my father telling me that I needed to spend time with her as much as possible before it’s too late sent me into “shut out” mode. Whenever specific circumstances seemingly held a chance for high emotions, or a big realization, I just couldn’t handle it. It was as if my body shut itself out so that way instead of feeling pain and heartache, I would feel absolutely nothing. I would put myself into a state of denial, that only ever ended in terrible consequences.
I did spend time with my grandmother, but definitely not as much as I should have. There were times when she was still healthy enough to do things where I would go get my nails done with her, but we never talked about what was happening. Her health quickly declined and within a month, she could no longer leave the house. She moved in with my Aunt and Uncle, and my aunt quit her job so she could give my gram round-the-clock care. A hospice nurse would come in daily to make sure she took her medication properly, yet still I was in complete denial despite the fact that I worked with the elderly and I knew what hospice care meant… it meant the end. But she seemed so normal. She still laughed and made jokes. She would still see me and give me the same love, even though her hugs became increasingly weaker. I kept telling myself, and her, that she would get better.
One day, she looked at me and said “Ohhh I just wanna get it over with. I just know I’m going to hell.” After laughing for a minute or so, I looked at her and said, “Oh stop, Gram, you aren’t going anywhere. You’ll be fine.” For a moment she looked at me, grabbed my hand, and said, “Alicia… Grammy’s dying. I know you don’t want to believe that, but I’m dying. You’ll be okay, I promise.” With tears in my eyes, I looked at her and said, “But you can’t die… you need to stay around for when I get married. You need to be here when I have kids.” She squeezed my hand tighter, and patted the top of it with her other hand and said, “I’ll still be there for all of that, not in person, but I will be there watching you.” To break the depressing mood, I looked at her smiling (despite the tears streaming down my face) and said, “You can watch over me, but not all the time.” After letting out her infamous laugh, which was slightly less strong than it normally was, she looked at me and said, “Oh, I’m watching you all the time,” and gave me a wink.
That is a moment I will forever cherish. It was the last time I saw her. My sister, Caitlin, had visited her every single day, something I wish I had the guts to do, but was too afraid of dealing with the realization that she, in fact, was dying. It was Easter morning, and I had gotten up early to start getting ready to go over to visit my gram with Caitlin. I left my phone downstairs, so when I was done, I went down to check it. I had a missed call from my dad, and it was as if I instantly knew. He had called me earlier and told Caitlin and I to push back the time for coming by because Gram was taking a little longer to get herself up. Although he could have been calling me simply to see if I was leaving soon, in my heart I just knew that wasn’t the case. I knew that she was gone. He left me a voicemail and I didn’t even bother to check it. I immediately called him back and when he answered, with a cracked voice fighting back breaking down I said, “She’s gone isn’t she?” I could tell my dad had been crying when he said, “I’m so sorry Alicia Fay… it just happened.”
I told him I was on my way and hung up. I fell to the ground and it was as if my heart was completely ripped out of my chest. I have experienced heartache in my life more than once, but nothing has ever compared to the pain I felt in that moment ever since. On the floor, I put my face in my hands and continued to cry the deepest sobs. My stomach turned, and my mind just couldn’t process that she was gone. I should’ve gone to see her more. I should’ve been a better granddaughter. I should’ve done more. Caitlin came through the door, her face red and swollen from her own tears. Without words, we fell into each other’s arms and cried into each other’s shoulders. After trying to calm ourselves down, we got in the car to go over to my aunts where my gram was still at, lying in her bed while we waited for the coroner to come over.
I know to some people, it’s probably weird to think about a lifeless body lying in a room in your house. I know some people can’t bear the thought of facing that, but in our family, it was something we needed for closure. We all needed to say goodbye. When we arrived, my Uncle was the first person I saw. He always reminded me so much of my Grammy. The way he laughed, the way he hugged me and told me how much he loved me. He learned that from her. Being over 6 feet tall, whenever I hugged him, my head rested on his lower chest and that is the first place I laid my head when I arrived. When I saw my dad, he explained he called and told us not to come earlier because they knew that she was going and they didn’t want us to have to see that. Part of me felt angry at this, I felt like I was cheated from telling my grandmother goodbye.
We all gathered around her bed, and then agreed that we should all get a private moment to say the things we need to say. When it was my turn, I didn’t know how to feel. I sat down in the seat I had just sat in two days prior, and grabbed her lifeless hand. I bent down and kissed it over and over, tears falling from my eyes onto her fingers. I didn’t know what to say, except, “I’m so sorry Grammy… I’m so sorry I didn’t do enough. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to you. I needed to say goodbye. I need you to say you love me. Grammy, I love you so much… Please, please, watch over me.” I laid with my hand in hers, and my head lying on top of them, crying silent tears. The kind of tears that fall from your eyes without even trying. The kind of tears that can only be produced from a deep pain that can not be described. She had a beautiful service. I gave a speech, surprisingly keeping my composure (up until the very end) as I told of the kind of person my grammy was to me. I put the piece of paper I wrote the speech on, along with a picture of her holding me as a baby less than year old in her casket.
After my grandmother passed away, my life drastically began to spiral out of control. Just prior to her passing, I had gone to my first appointment with my psychiatrist because I couldn’t handle dealing with my sporadic emotions, and that is when he diagnosed me with my disorder. After he told me, I spent hours on my computer researching it, trying to figure out what the fuck was going on in my own head. I became obsessed with it, trying to find a way to make it all go away, trying to find out why I had this. But, with my gram’s illness and passing, I became sidetracked from my own emotions and suppressed them to the point where they all came boiling out once we laid her to rest. I was more out of control of myself than ever before. I knew full and well that my disorder was in full swing, and I began skipping appointments and replacing therapy with alcohol. Thinking I was invincible, I would drink without a limit. Too many nights, I am sure my gram was watching me, completely saddened at what she saw. Too many nights, I am sure that she saved me from killing myself. Whenever I would become so crippled by my sadness, I would lay in bed bawling for my gram to please help me. I just needed her. Nothing made me happy anymore.
This went on for entirely too long. I spent all of my money on going out and drinking with friends, not giving a shit what happened to me, and just felt so purposeless. Too many nights I laid awake in bed, after expending all of my energy on sobbing, and fantasize about my life ending… fantasizing about the pain just being gone forever. Too many times I would be in my car, suddenly struck with rage and anger, and my mind would completely blank. I would begin to drive so fast, that I knew one wrong move, and I would lose control of my car. Honestly, I didn’t care. All I could think of was, “What if I just drive into that guard rail? What if I just drive into the other lane and end it right now?” I would scream at the top of my lungs to just let the burning inside my chest out. I would eventually pull over, after having had driven anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour away, and begin, once again, to sob. After I expelled all possible emotions, I would drive home, completely hallow and empty, with no emotions to spare anymore and lie in bed staring at my ceiling for hours until I’d fall asleep.
I don’t know how I survived that time in life without the help of therapy. As I said, I would beg my grammy to just help me. I’d pray to her and tell her that I just can’t do it anymore, I couldn’t take the pain and my mind was driving me crazy. As odd as this may sound, I completely believe my grammy brought me my dog, Zeke, to give me something to love that would love me back just as much, if not more. Even when he was a 6 week old puppy, and I would get into any of my stages (whether that be rage, depression, or emptiness), he would calm me so much. I would look into his eyes and feel so much love and my pain would just fade away. Eventually, it was as if he knew that I was going through something and he would lick my face whenever my anxiety would take over. He knew I was broken, but he loved me anyway. To be completely truthful, I believe that if it weren’t for him, I would have killed myself by now.
People say suicide is selfish, but when your mind becomes completely infested to the point where you can’t even control your own thoughts anymore, it seems like the only plausible option to make it all end. I won’t lie, I still suffer this deep sadness. It is not as intense as it was before, and I don’t look to numb it and block it out with alcohol. I know that I need to reenter therapy and find a way to balance my life more, but if it weren’t for my grammy watching out for me, and my amazing blessing of a dog, I wouldn’t be breathing in this air and living this life. I am sure that I will endure other hard times to come. I am still young, and life is full of ups and downs, but I will never forget this point in my life. I will forever miss my Grammy Fay. I will always wish that I could feel her hug me one more time and have her hold my face, look in my eyes, and tell me how much she loves me. But that’s life… and I’m fighting damn hard to live it.